The association between the oral and vaginal microbiome of young South African women

Master Thesis


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Bacterial vaginosis (BV) and periodontal disease (PD) are conditions characterised by reduction of healthy bacterial communities in the vaginal and oral microbiomes respectively. Both BV and PD are associated with an increased risk of preterm labour and negative birth outcomes, yet it is unknown whether PD and BV are independent risk factors or may be interrelated. Understanding the health risks associated with pregnancies in young women is critical for developing new preventative interventions and for informing guidelines. Current knowledge of what constitutes a healthy microbiome is largely based on North American studies and may not be applicable to the South African population. This study characterises the oral and vaginal microbiome of South African female adolescents and investigates the association between alterations in oral bacterial diversity and BV in young South African women. DNA was extracted from matched lateral vaginal wall, saliva and periodontal samples and V4 16S sequencing was performed using MiSeq technology. The composition of the core oral microbiome of South African female adolescents was found to be similar to descriptive studies published in other populations. We additionally report a description the vaginal microbiome that is in agreement with previous studies in the South African population. PD-associated bacterial species were enriched in the oral microbiome of women with clinically diagnosed BV and in those with Lactobacillus iners dominant vaginal community types (VCTs) compared to asymptomatic women and those with L. crispatus dominated VCTs respectively. While this data provides evidence in support of a relationship between oral and vaginal dysbiosis, it unclear in which compartment bacterial dysbiosis would originate, should the association holds true.